Tips for Sensitive People to Protect Their Energy

Originally Published on Psychologytoday.com on Dec 16, 2014 By Judith Orloff M.D.

Sensitive people or empaths have an ability to be emotional sponges that can heighten when they are at a social event, around co-workers, or in crowds. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive or exhausting.

For empaths to fully enjoy being around others, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. Since I’m an empath, I want to help them cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.

I’ve always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. After being in crowds I would leave feeling anxious, depressed, or tired. When I got home, I’d just crawl into bed, yearning for peace and quiet.

Here are six strategies from my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender to help you manage your senstivity more effectively and stay centered without absorbing negative energies.

  1. Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend anyone.  At the gathering try not to sit next to the identified energy vampire. Physical closeness increases empathy.
  2. Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s energies, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power. In contrast, holding your breath keeps negativity lodged in your body. To purify fear and pain, exhale stress and inhale calm. Picture unwholesome emotions as a gray fog lifting from your body, and wellness as a clear light entering it. This can produce quick results.
  3. Practice Guerilla Meditation. Be sure to meditate before the gathering, centering yourself, connecting to spirit, feeling your heart. Get strong. If you counter emotional or physical distress while at an event, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. You can do this by taking refuge in the bathroom or an empty room. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love. This has saved me many times at social functions where I feel depleted by others.
  4. Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Set clear limits and boundaries with people, nicely cutting them off at the pass if they get critical or mean. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.
  5. Visualize protection around you. Research has shown that visualization is a healing mind/body technique. A practical form of protection many people use, including health care practitioners with difficult patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field to keep out intruders.
  6. Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. Here are some practical examples of what to do in situations that predictably stymie empaths.
  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing–even if you adore the people — take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • Some empaths are highly sensitive to scents, if you are overwhelmed, for instance by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.

If all else fails and you absorb stressful or negative energy while at a gathering when you get home take a bath or shower. My bath is my sanctuary after a busy day. It washes away everything from bus exhaust to long hours of air travel to pesky symptoms I have taken on from others. Soaking in natural mineral springs divinely purifies all that ails.

Dr.Orloff shares more about empaths in The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People

Tips for Sensitive People to Protect Their Energy_2

Judith Orloff, M.D. is the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her LA based private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Guide to Intuitive Healing, The Power of Surrender and Second Sight. Connect with Judith on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff’s books and workshop schedule, visit her website. Republished with explicit written permission from the author. Join her empath Facebook community for sensitive souls Here.

REVITALIZING BATHS

Originally published on Solzana.com on October 15, 2018

Baths rituals have been around since the beginning of time and are used all over the world in different cultures. Renowned for their healing and therapeutic properties, baths were used in ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Egyptians for spiritual cleansing and meditation. Even if you don’t think of baths as a form of ritual, most of us have experienced bathing in some form. Whether you were a baby receiving your first bath or soaking in your kiddie pool to escape the heat during the hot summer months. These “bath rituals”, help connect with others and refresh the mind, body, and soul. All of us have benefited from some type of bath in our lives.

Baths truly have the power to purify the spirit and help manifest our wishes.

I am excited to share the below bath rituals that I use in conjunction with my manifesting spells and Reiki.

May these enhance your life and refresh your soul! Enjoy!

ABSOLUTE SUNSHINE BATH

This bath is used when I feel drained and I want to boost my energy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup of Sea Salt
  • 2 Lemons – The Juice
  • Half a Cup of Honey
  • 1 Cup of Milk
  • A few sprigs of Mint or Lemon Grass (optional)

While filling your bath with hot water, sprinkle the sea salt, lemon juice, honey, milk, & mint/lemon grass. Stir in well so that all of the ingredients dissolve. As you get towards the end of filling up the bath, change the water temperature to cold, that way to balance out the heat of the bath until it is at a comfortable temperature. Careful not to scald yourself.

Before getting into the bath, take time to imagine that the water is turning into liquid gold that is radiating light energy. Concentrate on the belief that your body will soak in this energy and increase your vitality as well as help you attract more of what you wish for. Like bees to honey, you will attract abundance, health, and happiness.

For those that are Reiki attuned: Channel Reiki energy into the water to increase the power of the above intention.

Get in, relax, and enjoy!

LOVE POTION BATH

This bath is used to increase self-love and/or to attract love.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup of Sea Salt
  • Half a Cup of Honey
  • 1 Cup of Milk
  • Rose Petals

While filling your bath with hot water, sprinkle the sea salt, honey, milk, & rose petals. Stir in well so that all of the ingredients dissolve. As you get towards the end of filling up the bath, change the water temperature to cold, that way to balance out the heat of the bath until it is at a comfortable temperature. Careful not to scald yourself.

Before getting into the bath, take time to imagine that the water is radiating green and pink color light energy. Concentrate on the belief that the salt is a cleanser. That it will help release past traumas, fears, and any negative thoughts or feelings towards any past relationships or yourself. Imagine that the milk & honey will help heal all wounds and help attract true love and healing.

For those that are Reiki attuned: Channel Reiki energy into the water to increase the power of the above intention.

Remember, you must love yourself before you can love another. Get in, relax, and enjoy!

Show Me the Science – Why Wash Your Hands?

Show Me the Science - Why Wash Your Hands

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

How germs get onto hands and make people sick

Feces (poop) from people or animals is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them. A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs 1. Germs can also get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

Washing hands prevents illnesses and spread of infections to others

Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because:

  • People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it.
  • Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick.
    Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.
  • Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
  • Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.

Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community:

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40% 2, 3, 6
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58% 4
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21% 3, 5
  • Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57% 7

Not washing hands harms children around the world

About 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the
world 8.

  • Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea 2, 3 and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia 3, 5.
  • Although people around the world clean their hands with water, very few use soap to wash their hands. Washing hands with soap removes germs much more effectively 9.
  • Handwashing education and access to soap in schools can help improve attendance 10, 11, 12.
    Good handwashing early in life may help improve child development in some settings 13.
  • Estimated global rates of handwashing after using the toilet are only 19% 6.

Handwashing helps battle the rise in antibiotic resistance

Preventing sickness reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds) 2, 5. Antibiotics often are prescribed unnecessarily for these health issues 14. Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat.

References

 

 

Limiting Your Social Media Use Can Improve Your Wellbeing, A New Study Says

Originally published on bustle.com  By Emily Dixon
Limiting Your Social Media Use Can Improve Your Wellbeing, A New Study Says
By now, most people have heard the arguments that social media can have a negative impact on mental health. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to renounce the platforms altogether, particularly as they now play such a fundamental role in how we stay connected to each other. Fortunately, a new study suggests that you needn’t shut down all your accounts to reap the mental health benefits; in fact, simply limiting your social media use can improve your wellbeing. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania asked undergraduate students to cut down their time spent on social media to a total of 30 minutes per day — and saw a significant improvement in their mental health.

The connection between social media use and poorer mental health is a vigorously debated one, as Bustle has previously reported. Studies have associated the use of social media with an increase in symptoms of anxiety, and linked Facebook use with a decline in wellbeing. A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center suggested that using social media might make you more stressed — but confusingly, it can also serve as an outlet for your stress. And some, like Guardian columnust Dr. Frances Ryan, have noted that access to social media can be vital for disabled people and members of other marginalised groups.

Limiting Your Social Media Use Can Improve Your Wellbeing, A New Study Says_2

So what did the University of Pennsylvania study indicate? The researchers divided 143 student participants into two groups: a control group, who weren’t asked to alter their social media usage, and an experimental group, who were asked to limit their use of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to 10 minutes on each platform per day. They completed a wellbeing survey both before the study began and after four weeks of adhering to their assigned social media limits, rating aspects like access to social support, fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and loneliness.

At the end of the study, the students who restricted their social media use demonstrated significantly lower levels of loneliness, and those who indicated a high level of depression at the start of the study experienced a “clinically significant” reduction in their symptoms. There was no significant difference between the control group and the experimental group when it came to levels of anxiety, social support, fear of missing out, or self-esteem, however.

Limiting Your Social Media Use Can Improve Your Wellbeing, A New Study Says_1

By now, most people have heard the arguments that social media can have a negative impact on mental health. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to renounce the platforms altogether, particularly as they now play such a fundamental role in how we stay connected to each other. Fortunately, a new study suggests that you needn’t shut down all your accounts to reap the mental health benefits; in fact, simply limiting your social media use can improve your wellbeing. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania asked undergraduate students to cut down their time spent on social media to a total of 30 minutes per day — and saw a significant improvement in their mental health.

The connection between social media use and poorer mental health is a vigorously debated one, as Bustle has previously reported. Studies have associated the use of social media with an increase in symptoms of anxiety, and linked Facebook use with a decline in wellbeing. A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center suggested that using social media might make you more stressed — but confusingly, it can also serve as an outlet for your stress. And some, like Guardian columnust Dr. Frances Ryan, have noted that access to social media can be vital for disabled people and members of other marginalised groups.

Another interesting finding? Overall, both groups — even those who weren’t asked to limit their social media use — showed a decrease in fear of missing out and anxiety. The researchers hypothesised that this could be “a result of the self-monitoring inherent in the study,” as both groups were asked to send screenshots of their iPhone battery usage pages to measure how much time they spent on each app. So if a 30 minute social media cap sounds too restrictive for you, you might still experience some benefits just by keeping an eye on the time you spend online.

The researchers concluded that “limiting social media usage does have a direct and positive impact on subjective wellbeing over time, especially with respect to decreasing loneliness and depression.” Suspect that social media is negatively affecting your mental health? You might just have found your New Year’s resolution.

How to be the Person You Want to be

Originally Published on WhenWomenInspire.com  on August 31, 2018 By Christy B

How to be the Person You Want to be
Do you want to be a better version of yourself? Whether it’s being smarter, kinder, getting a better job, or finding a loving relationship, self-improvement always starts with you. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to bring into the world.” And he wasn’t wrong. As we go steadily through our days, the only way to achieve more and find greater satisfaction with the world is by becoming the best version of ourselves. This isn’t the challenge that you might be expecting. There are a number of small but very positive steps that you can take to improve your way of thinking, boost creativity, and take you closer to being the person that you aspire to be. It also can involve removing toxic people from your life. Here is how to be the person you want to be.

The Better Version of ‘You’: Have a goal

Most people dream of being ‘better’ don’t fully understand what that means in any real terms. For those who hope to grow personally, the first step is to identify exactly what you don’t want. Without knowing what aspects of your lifestyle, personality, or habits you want to change, it is much harder to implement the right changes.

Don’t be afraid to let your goals evolve, but always have a plan and direction to head in. Having a clear idea about who you are right now and what you want to change about yourself is the first step to making the necessary changes and becoming a better version of yourself.

Make the changes to be the person you want to be

The changes you make don’t have to be grandiose. There’s no need to immediately quit your job or sign up for the gym today. Often, the smallest of changes can have the most long-lasting and positive effects. Taking up a new hobby is a good way to make a positive change in your life. There are many social and mental health benefits to choosing a good hobby. It might be pursuing a new collection or a sport you hadn’t tried before.

With so many options possible, it can be tricky to narrow things down. Unique sports like Cloud Chasing are growing in popularity, so if that’s something that you’re interested in, then invest in some quality e-liquids from Juice.co.uk. No matter which hobby you choose, your confidence can grow. You deserve to be the person you want to be.

Eliminate toxic people

The problem with toxic people is that they don’t always reveal themselves until they are already part of your life. Often, you meet them through family members, friends or at the workplace; this makes them much harder to avoid or simply cut out of your life. If toxic people are unavoidable, then you need to be firm in setting up personal boundaries.

Stop allowing toxic people to pull your into drama and irrelevant crises. Hopefully you’ll find that positivity is much easier to achieve then. Ideally, you want to surround yourself with positive influences. Those toxic friendships can detract from and overwhelm the good things in life.

The path to becoming the person you want to be doesn’t always mean making huge life changes. Take small steps, and you’ll gradually grow into the better version of yourself.

What is the Ego ?

Originally Published on Pathwaytohappiness.com on February 23, 2013 By Gary van Warmerdam

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The ego is an identity of our own construction, an identity which is false. If we take all the beliefs of what we are – beliefs about our personality, talents, and abilities – we have the structure of our ego. These talents, abilities and aspects of our personality will be attributes of our skills, but the mental construct of our “self” is artificial. And while this description might make the ego seem like a static thing, it is not. Rather, it is an active and dynamic part of our personalities, playing an immense role in creating emotional drama in our lives.

When we have thoughts about our self that we agree with we construct a self-image. The kinds of thoughts that contribute to the ego structure are:

“I’m not good at math.”
“I am smart.”
“My freckles make me ugly.”
“Nobody likes me.”
“I am better than you.”
“That was stupid of me.”

The ego hides behind the “I” and “me” in those declarative thoughts and statements about our identity.

When we have such thoughts and agree with even the slightest conviction that these ideas define us, then we are building, or reinforcing, an ego. We first have these thoughts when we are kids, perhaps when we were teased on the playground, or when reprimanded or praised by a teacher or parent. In all cultures, developing a self-image is a normal part of socialization. Problems arise, however, when that self-image is negative, inaccurate, or even overly positive. Considering that we develop our concept of “self” as children, it is inevitable that our self-image doesn’t map to reality as adults.

The Ego Unmasked

Why is the ego so hard to explain or describe? The ego is difficult to define because the ego isn’t one specific thing. It is actually made up of many different beliefs that a person acquires over their life. Those beliefs can be diverse and even contradictory. To further complicate it, each person’s ego is different. If someone were to clearly identify and describe all the parts of their ego and what it drives them to do, you might not get a good description of what yours looked like. The challenge of becoming aware of what your personal ego looks like becomes more difficult because our culture doesn’t reward us for directing our attention inward and noticing such things.

How to Spot the Ego

The ego is difficult to see, because it hides behind opinions that appear true – our attachment to descriptions of our identity – and because we haven’t practiced looking. You can get a glimpse by noticing certain thoughts, similar to those listed above. The easier way to spot the ego is by the trail of emotional reactions it leaves behind: Anger at a loved one, a need to be right, a feeling of insecurity in certain situations, feelings of jealousy that are unexplained, the need to impress someone, and so on. These emotions can be attributed to the false beliefs that comprise the ego. In the beginning it is easier to see the symptoms of resulting emotions and drama, rather than the ego that caused it.

One of the most deceptive aspects of the ego is that it generates powerful emotional reactions, and then blames us for how it made us feel. The anger we react with comes from ego based beliefs of being right and “knowing better’ than someone else. Perhaps there is also a victim interpretation of betrayal or injustice underneath. After we overreact with anger we might feel badly for what we expressed. The ego shifts to a “righteous self” that “knows better” and berates us for overreacting with anger. At the same time, it assumes the identity of being the “stupid idiot” that didn’t know any better and takes the blame for overreacting. All these attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs take place in the mind, and even though they are completely different, we assume all of them come from us. If they really were expressions coming from our genuine self, they wouldn’t contradict, and we would be able to stop them.

To the unaware person, it is difficult to discern the difference between what is ego and what is really them. They are left to wonder, “What came over me that I reacted that way?” Even their post-emotional analysis lacks the consideration to see the different parts of their belief system at work as separate from themselves. As a result, everything they express is blamed on “themselves” by one of the condemning voices in their head. In effect, the ego hijacks the analysis and turns it into a self-criticism/blame process. When the ego controls the self-reflection process you have no chance of seeing the root cause of your emotional dramas, as the ego reaffirms itself and hides in the self-criticism.

Is the ego arrogant or insecure?

“Having an ego” is usually associated with arrogance and is a term used to describe someone who thinks they are better than others. Yet this is only one part of the ego. In fact, it is possible to have some positive self-esteem and some negative self-esteem – we are aware of these different beliefs at different times. The negative beliefs about our self make up our negative self-esteem, while our positive thoughts comprise our positive self-esteem. Together, the negative and positive esteem forms our ego.

Quite often, these two aspects of our personality are nearly equal in magnitude and offset each other emotionally. A person who is very hard on themselves with their inner critic may have feelings of worthlessness. This is a painful emotion to live with, and in order to mask the pain, they might cover it up with bravado, projecting an image of security and confidence, all the while struggling with feelings of insecurity, worthlessness and inadequacy.

Arrogance is markedly different from the confidence that doesn’t come from ego. A person can be completely confident in their ability, skill, or self-acceptance, without letting it “go to their head” and impacting their interactions with others. And while humility may often be mistaken for shyness and insecurity, a person of true humility is fully present and at peace with themselves and their surroundings. Confidence without arrogance, humility without insecurity, these are manners of personality that are without the self-image dynamics of the ego.

Letting Go of the Ego

Because the ego has multiple aspects, it is not practical or effective to dissolve all of it at once, nor is it likely that you could do so. Much like a tree or large bush that is overgrown in the yard, you don’t just lift it out and throw it away – you cut off manageable pieces instead. The same approach is effective with letting go of the false beliefs that make up the ego. You begin by detaching from individual thoughts that reinforce the ego, then let go of beliefs, separating yourself from the false identity of your ego.

We have spent years building our ego self-images, living inside of them, and reinforcing them. Extracting our genuine self out of this matrix of false beliefs will take more than a few days. Yes, it will take a while… so what. It also took a while to learn to read, do math, walk, and develop proficiency at any valuable skill. Things worth doing take time and practice. What better thing do you have to do than let go of what is causing you unhappiness?

For a practical step-by-step process in identifying and changing the core beliefs that comprise the ego, sample the free sessions of the Self-Mastery series.

Why Is Biodiversity Important? Who Cares?

Originally Published on GlobalIssues.org on January 19, 2014 By Anup Shah

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares

At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.

The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity web site.

What is Biodiversity?

The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity.

The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth.

Appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach to preserving biodiversity. Almost all cultures have their roots in our biological diversity in some way or form.

Declining biodiversity is therefore a concern for many reasons.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play.

For example,

A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops
Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms
Healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.

And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife.

A healthy biodiversity offers many natural services

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_2

A healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone:

  • Ecosystem services, such as
  • Protection of water resources
  • Soils formation and protection
  • Nutrient storage and recycling
  • Pollution breakdown and absorption
  • Contribution to climate stability
  • Maintenance of ecosystems
  • Recovery from unpredictable events
  • Biological resources, such as
  • Food
  • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
  • Wood products
  • Ornamental plants
  • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
  • Future resources
  • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
  • Social benefits, such as
  • Research, education and monitoring
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Cultural values
Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_4

Ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest are rich in diversity. Deforestation threatens many species such as the giant leaf frog, shown here. (Images source: Wikipedia)

That is quite a lot of services we get for free!

The cost of replacing these (if possible) would be extremely expensive. It therefore makes economic and development sense to move towards sustainability.

A report from Nature magazine also explains that genetic diversity helps to prevent the chances of extinction in the wild (and claims to have shown proof of this).

To prevent the well known and well documented problems of genetic defects caused by in-breeding, species need a variety of genes to ensure successful survival. Without this, the chances of extinction increases.

And as we start destroying, reducing and isolating habitats, the chances for interaction from species with a large gene pool decreases.

Species depend on each other

While there might be “survival of the fittest” within a given species, each species depends on the services provided by other species to ensure survival. It is a type of cooperation based on mutual survival and is often what a “balanced ecosystem” refers to.

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_5

Soil, bacteria, plants; the Nitrogen Cycle

The relationship between soil, plants, bacteria and other life is also referred to as the nitrogen cycle:

As an example, consider all the species of animals and organisms involved in a simple field used in agriculture. As summarized from Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest (South End Press, 2000), pp 61–62:

  • Crop byproducts feed cattle
  • Cattle waste feeds the soil that nourish the crops
  • Crops, as well as yielding grain also yield straw
  • Straw provides organic matter and fodder
  • Crops are therefore food sources for humans and animals
  • Soil organisms also benefit from crops
  • Bacteria feed on the cellulose fibers of straw that farmers return to the soil
  • Amoebas feed on bacteria making lignite fibers available for uptake by plants
  • Algae provide organic matter and serve as natural nitrogen fixers
  • Rodents that bore under the fields aerate the soil and improve its water-holding capacity
  • Spiders, centipedes and insects grind organic matter from the surface soil and
  • leave behind enriched droppings.
  • Earthworms contribute to soil fertility
  • They provide aerage, drainage and maintain soil structure.
  • According to Charles Darwin, “It may be doubted whether there are many other
  • animals which have played so important a part in the history of creatures.”
  • The earthworm is like a natural tractor, fertilizer factory and dam, combined!
  • Industrial-farming techniques would deprive these diverse species of food sources and instead assault them with chemicals, destroying the rich biodiversity in the soil and with it the basis for the renewal of the soil fertility.

Shiva, a prominent Indian scientist and activist goes on to detail the costs associated with destroying this natural diversity and traditional farming techniques which recognize this, and replacing this with industrial processes which go against the nature of diversity sustainability.

Bees: crucial agricultural workers

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_6

Bees provide enormous benefits for humankind as another example.

As reported by CNN (May 5, 2000), “One third of all our food—fruits and vegetables—would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers. But honeybees, the primary species that fertilizes food-producing plants, have suffered dramatic declines in recent years, mostly from afflictions introduced by humans.”

As German bee expert Professor Joergen Tautz from Wurzburg University adds:

Bees are vital to bio diversity. There are 130,000 plants for example for which bees are essential to pollination, from melons to pumpkins, raspberries and all kind of fruit trees — as well as animal fodder — like clover.

Bees are more important than poultry in terms of human nutrition.

-Joergen Tautz interviewed by Michael Leidig, Honey bees in US facing extinction, The Telegraph, March 14, 2007

Researchers are finding reasons for the massive decline hard to pinpoint, but suspect a combination of various diseases, environmental pollution, environmental degradation (leading to less diversity for bees to feed from, for example) and farming practices (such as pesticides, large monoculture cropping, etc).

The link and dependency between plants, bees, and human agriculture is so crucial, the two scientists writing up years of research into the problem summarized with this warning:

Humankind needs to act quickly to ensure that the ancient pact between flowers and pollinators stays intact, to safeguard our food supply and to protect our environment for generations to come. These efforts will ensure that bees continue to provide pollination and that our diets remain rich in the fruits and vegetables we now take for granted.

-Diana Cox-Foster and Dennis van Engelsdorp, Solving the
Mystery of the Vanishing Bees, Scientific American, April 2009

Interdependent marine ecosystem

An example from the seas (originally mentioned here years ago but removed because the link to the story no longer worked), was described by National Geographic Wild in a program called, A Life Among Whales (broadcast June 14, 2008).

It noted how a few decades ago, some fishermen campaigned for killing whales because they were threatening the fish supply and thus jobs.

A chain of events eventually came full circle and led to a loss of jobs:

  • The massive reduction in the local whale population meant killer whales in the region (usually preying on younger whales) moved to other animals such as seals;
  • As seal numbers declined, the killer whales targeted otters;
  • As otter numbers were decimated, the urchins and other targets of otters flourished;
  • These decimated the kelp forests where many fish larvae grew in relative protection;
  • The exposed fish larvae were easy pickings for a variety of sea life;
  • Fishermen’s livelihoods were destroyed.

Large carnivores essential for healthy ecosystems

Three quarters of the world’s big carnivores are in decline. A study in the journal Science, notes that these large animals — such as lions, leopards, wolves and bears — are in decline, due to declining habitats and persecution by humans..

This also has a negative impact on the environment, perhaps partly formed by outdated-views that predators are harmful for other wildlife. As the study notes, human actions cannot fully replace the role of large carnivores because these large carnivores are an intrinsic part of an ecosystem’s biodiversity.

As a simple example, the loss of a large carnivore may mean in the short term the herbivores they prey on may increase in numbers but this can also result in a deterioration of the environment as the herbivores can graze more, largely unchecked. Human intervention to perform the same services would be more costly.

Interdependency vs Human Intervention

Nature can often be surprisingly resilient, often without the need for human interventions. For example, a documentary aired on the BBC (I unfortunately forget the name and date, but in the 1990s) described two national parks in Africa where elephant populations had grown quite large within those artificial boundaries. The usual way to deal with this was to cull the population to try and keep the ecosystem in balance. Without this, elephants were stripping vegetation bare, affecting other animals, too.

A scientist pleaded with park management not to cull and let nature take its course. Being against prevailing thought, they would not agree. In the end they agreed to let one park have its elephants culled, while the other would be left alone.

A few years later, they found the park with the culled population had remained in poor condition. The park where things were left alone has naturally regenerated; the large elephant populations eventually reduced in number as they undermined their own resource base. The natural pace at which this happened allowed vegetation to grow back. Other wildlife grew in numbers and the ecosystem was generally back in balance.

Biodiversity providing lessons for scientists in engineering

For a number of years now, scientists have been looking more and more at nature to see how various species work, produce, consume resources, trying to mimic the amazing feats that millions of years of evolution has produced.

As just one small example, some spiders can produce their silk with a higher tensile strength than many alloys of steel even though it is made of proteins. So biologists are looking at these processes in more depth to see if they can reproduce or enhance such capabilities.

More important than human use or biological interest

Many people may support environmental causes to help preserve the beauty of Nature. However, that is in a strange way, not really a justifiable excuse as it is a subjective, human or anthropomorphasized view.

For many decades, various environmentalists, biologists and other scientists, have viewed the entire earth as a massive living organism or system due to the interdependent nature of all species within it. Some cultures have recognized this kind of inter-relationship for a very long time. Some have termed this Gaia.

While there are disagreements and differences on how this works, it suggests that ecological balance and biodiversity are crucial for all of earth, not just humans.

Putting an economic value on biodiversity

It was noted earlier that ecosystems provide many services to us, for free.

Although some dislike the thought of trying to put an economic value on biodiversity (some things are just priceless), there have been attempts to do so in order for people to understand the magnitude of the issue: how important the environment is to humanity and what costs and benefits there can be in doing (or not doing) something.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) is an organization — backed by the UN and various European governments — attempting to compile, build and make a compelling economics case for the conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity.

In a recent report, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers 2009, TEEB provided the following example of sectors dependent on genetic resources:

Why Is Biodiversity Important Who Cares_7

In addition, it is estimated that implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help

  • Halve deforestation by 2030, and
  • Cut emissions by 1.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

From a cost perspective (p.18), it is estimated that

  • It would cost from US$ 17.2 – 33 billion per year
  • The estimated benefit in reduced climate change is US$ 3.2 trillion
  • The above would be a good return on the initial investment. By contrast, waiting 10 more years could reduce the net benefit of halving deforestation by US$ 500 billion.

In addition, they cited another study that estimated that 3,000 listed companies around the world were responsible for over $2 trillion in environmental “externalities” (i.e. costs that have to be borne by society from ignored factors, or “social costs”). This is equivalent to 7% of their combined revenues and up to a third of their combined profits.

The benefits of these silent parts of our economy is also summarized in these videos by TEEB’s Pavan Sukhdev:

In addition, it is estimated that implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help

Halve deforestation by 2030, and
Cut emissions by 1.5 Gt of CO2 per year.

From a cost perspective (p.18), it is estimated that

It would cost from US$ 17.2 – 33 billion per year
The estimated benefit in reduced climate change is US$ 3.2 trillion
The above would be a good return on the initial investment. By contrast, waiting 10 more years could reduce the net benefit of halving deforestation by US$ 500 billion.

In addition, they cited another study that estimated that 3,000 listed companies around the world were responsible for over $2 trillion in environmental “externalities” (i.e. costs that have to be borne by society from ignored factors, or “social costs”). This is equivalent to 7% of their combined revenues and up to a third of their combined profits.

The benefits of these silent parts of our economy is also summarized in these videos by TEEB’s Pavan Sukhdev:

The BBC notes that biodiversity is fundamental to economics. For example,

  • The G8 nations, together with 5 major emerging economies — China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico — use almost three-quarters of the Earth’s biocapacity
  • An estimated 40% of world trade is based on biological products or processes.

Despite these free benefits, it has long been recognized that we tend to ignore or underestimate the value of those services. So much so that economic measures such as GDP often ignores environmental costs.

The economic benefits of protecting the environment are well-understood, even if seemingly rarely practiced:

Numerous studies also show that investments in protected areas generate a cost-benefit ratio of one to 25 and even one to 100 in some cases, [Pavan Sukhdev, from TEEB] said. Planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves in Vietnam costs just over a million dollars but saved annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over seven million dollars.

Stephen Leahy, Environment: Save At Least Half the Planet, or Lose It All, Inter Press Service, November 17, 2009

It has perhaps taken about a decade or so — and a severe enough global financial crisis that has hit the heart of this way of thinking — to change this mentality (in which time, more greenhouse gases have been emitted — inefficiently).

Economists talk of the price signal that is fundamental to capitalism; the ability for prices to indicate when a resource is becoming scarcer. At such a time, markets mobilize automatically to address this by looking for ways to bring down costs. As a result, resources are supposedly infinite. For example, if energy costs go up, businesses will look for a way to minimize such costs for themselves, and it is in such a time that alternatives come about and/or existing resources last longer because they are used more efficiently. “Running out of resources” should therefore be averted.

However, it has long been argued that prices don’t truly reflect the full cost of things, so either the signal is incorrect, or comes too late. The price signal also implies the poorest often pay the heaviest costs. For example, commercially over-fishing a region may mean fish from that area becomes harder to catch and more expensive, possibly allowing that ecosystem time to recover (though that is not guaranteed, either). However, while commercial entities can exploit resources elsewhere, local fishermen will go out of business and the poorer will likely go hungry (as also detailed on this site’s section on biodiversity). This then has an impact on various local social, political and economic issues.

In addition to that, other related measurements, such as GNP are therefore flawed, and even reward unproductive or inefficient behavior (e.g. “Efficiently” producing unhealthy food — and the unhealthy consumer culture to go with it — may profit the food industry and a private health sector that has to deal with it, all of which require more use of resources. More examples are discussed on this site’s section on consumption and consumerism).

Our continued inefficient pumping of greenhouse gases into the environment without factoring the enormous cost as the climate already begins to change is perhaps an example where price signals may come too late, or at a time when there is already significant impact to many people. Resources that could be available more indefinitely, become finite because of our inability or unwillingness to change.

Markets fail to capture most ecosystem service values. Existing price signals only reflect – at best – the share of total value that relates to provisioning services like food, fuel or water and their prices may be distorted. Even these services often bypass markets where carried out as part of community management of shared resources. The values of other ecosystem services are generally not reflected in markets apart from a few exceptions (such as tourism).

This is mainly explained by the fact that many ecosystem services are ‘public goods’ or ‘common goods’: they are often open access in character and non-rival in their consumption. In addition, their benefits are felt differently by people in different places and over different timescales. Private and public decisions affecting biodiversity rarely consider benefits beyond the immediate geographical area…. They can also overlook local public benefits … in favor of private benefits …, even when local livelihoods are at stake, or focus on short-term gains to the detriment of the sustained supply of benefits over time….

Benefits that are felt with a long-term horizon (e.g. from climate regulation) are frequently ignored. This systematic under-valuation of ecosystem services and failure to capture the values is one of the main causes underlying today’s biodiversity crisis. Values that are not overtly part of a financial equation are too often ignored.

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers 2009

In effect, as TEEB, and many others before have argued, a key challenge will be adapting our economic systems to integrate sustainability and human well-being as well as other environmental factors to give us truer costs (after all, market systems are supposed to work when there is full availability of information).

Think of some of the effects this could have:

  • Some industrial meat production, which is very harmful for the environment, may become more expensive
  • For example, as mentioned in the previous link, if water used by the meat industry in the United States were not subsidized by taxpayers, common hamburger meat would cost $35 a pound.
  • Instead of regulation to change people’s habits, markets would automatically reflect these true costs; consumers can then make better informed choices about what to consume, e.g. by reducing their meat consumption or demand more ecologically sustainable alternatives at reasonable cost.
  • A reduction in meat production could protect forests or help reduce clearance of forests for cattle ranches, which would have a knock-on benefit for climate change concerns.
  • Appropriate investment in renewable energy could threaten the fossil fuel industry though they are trying to adapt to that (perhaps slowly, and after initial resistance). But at the same time, governments that are able to use renewable sources are less likely to find themselves spending so many resources in geopolitical areas (e.g. politics, military, terrorist response to Western presence in Middle East, etc) to protect or secure access to fossil fuels.
  • “Cradle to cradle” type of design — where products are designed to be produced and recycled or disposed of more sustainably — could considerably reduce costs for producers and consumers alike, and possibly reduce stress on associated ecosystems.
  • Land that is used to produce unhealthy or marginally nutritious items (e.g. tobacco, sugar, possibly tea and coffee) could be used for more useful or healthier alternatives, possibly even helping address obesity and other issues. (For example, while factoring in environmental costs could make healthy produce more expensive too, expanding production of healthier foods could help contain costs rises to some extent.)
  • etc.

How much would such accounting save? It is hard to know, but there is a lot of waste in the existing system. In the mid-1990s, the Institute for Economic Democracy calculated that as much as half the American economy constituted of wasted labor, wealth and resources (book: World’s Wasted Wealth, II — see sample chapter).

Naturally, those who benefit from the current system may be hostile to such changes, especially if it may mean they might lose out.

This is a clear case of inter-related issues: the health of the environment is strongly tried to our economic choices (i.e. how we use resources), but addressing core short-comings in our economic systems is a crucial political challenge.

More information

For more information on this question, visit some of the following links

  • Scientific American Magazine provides an answer to a reader’s question: “What is the point in preserving endangered species that have no practical use to humans, apart from their aesthetic appeal or their intellectual interest to biologists?”
    The WWF also have sections on species and on biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity: A Matter of Extinction is a briefing from Panos that highlights the problems that have led to an increasingly alarming rate extinctions, this century alone. Although from 1995, it shows how far back the problem was known (and one can infer that we haven’t therefore done much about the problem since).
  • The World Conservation Monitor has sections on biodiversity indicators and biodiversity assessments.
  • Biodiversity and its Value from the Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australia, provides many good insights.
  • “Why Conserve Species” from Nature Magazine provides a good answer to this question. (Unfortunately, since their site redesign, this URL is no longer valid, and to date a new URL cannot be found.)
  • “Life on the Brink” from Earth Magazine, (Kalmbach Publishing Company), April 97 edition, delivers a very interesting answer to why biodiversity is important. (Unfortunately they no longer publish this magazine so the article is no longer online.)
  • Biodiversity Benefits People is an online presentation from the United Nations Environment Program

36 Buddhist Quotes On Life

Originally Published on Inspired-Motivation.com on June 22, 2018 By David & Mike

36 Buddhist Quotes On Life

1 “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha
2 “No one saves us but ourselves.” – Buddha
3 “Understanding is the heartwood of well-spoken words.” – Buddha
4 “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
5 “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha
6 “Purity or impurity depends on oneself.” – Buddha
7 “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha
8 “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” – Buddha
9 “To keep the body in good health is a duty.” – Buddha
10 “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Buddha
11 “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” – Buddha
12 “In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth.” – Buddha
13 “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Buddha
14 “A jug fills drop by drop.” – Buddha
15 “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” – Buddha
16 “Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.” – Buddha
17 “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” – Buddha
18 “Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.” – Buddha
19 “Give, even if you only have a little.” – Buddha
20 “Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him like a guide to hidden treasure.” – Buddha
21 “Meditate … do not delay, lest you later regret It.” – Buddha
22 “Conquer anger with non-anger. Conquer badness with goodness.” – Buddha
23 “There is nothing comparable to one who is Awakened.” – Buddha
24 “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across.” – Buddha
36 Buddhist Quotes On Life_2
25 “When watching after yourself, you watch after others.” – Buddha
26 “Resolutely train yourself to attain peace.” – Buddha
27 What we think, we become. – Buddha
28 Our own worst enemy cannot harm us as much as our unwise thoughts. No one can help us as much as our own compassionate thoughts. – Buddha
29 You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. -Buddha
30 Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. -Buddha
31 Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. -Buddha
32 There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. -Buddha
33 You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. -Buddha
34 Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. -Buddha
35 Patience is key. Remember: A jug fills drop by drop. -Buddha
36 Pain is certain, suffering is optional. -Buddha

Is it Possible for you to Shut Up?

What I learned at a Silent Stay Retreat

mountain view

Photo by imagesthai.com on Pexels.com

Recently I went to Silent Stay Retreat Center. It was very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing. It’s in the hills of Solano County in Pleasant Valley. Once you get here they encourage silence and it was quite refreshing to not feel pressured to talk to the other participants. I found it quite interesting that all of the participants were women except for one of the facilitators.  You do a couple of meditations per day in a group but the rest of the time you can do whatever you like. They recommend you leave your phone in the car so that you can really unplug. I did notice I wasn’t the only person who didn’t abide by this recommendation.  My excuse was because I needed to be available in case of an emergency with my family.  Needless to say it made me aware that I have a real addiction with my phone.

adult air beautiful beauty

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

One of the things we discussed is that with all of the busyness of life, we become so work oriented that we don’t know how to get our balance. The silence is what helps us to get our balance again. It helps your soul to come home and give itself a rest. It’s a beautiful concept.

yin yang

There is a concept of Yin and Yang.  Yang being work, education, doing, achieving, making money, pursuing.  Yin is about being, accepting, allowing, receiving, silence, inner being and soul work. It’s about getting in touch with that little kid inside of you and realizing what your inner child needs. Maybe it needs to play for a bit or get some rest. It also could need to get rid of stuff that is holding you back. Such as holding on to too much stuff.  It’s difficult to listen to your needs without silence.  Your inner child gets drowned out with all of the other noises and sounds.

The thing that was nice about having silence at the retreat, is that I didn’t have to feel that pressure to speak to talk to others. They have notes of paper around so you can communicate with someone if you need to.  It is perfectly fine to be in the same room and not feel responsible to talk to them. That felt very freeing and made me realize how such a simple thing as silence can have a real benefit to our lives.

Western culture is very much goal oriented, analytical, results driven and forces one to “go, go,go.” When really what our soul needs is just some time to sit back under a tree, and enjoy the cool breeze and enjoy the moment. What would happen if we gave ourselves a bit of time?

There was silence but the birds weren’t silent.  In the quiet of the hills, I could hear the beautiful songs of the birds.  There were many wind chimes and other wild life.  Hearing all of the wonderful nature sounds was very peaceful.  There was a beautiful family of turkeys.  The baby turkeys with their mom and dad.  I took the worst picture humanly possible.

bird pattern colorful green

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of course I was reading an Awesome book when I was there that just completely enhanced the experience.  I took the book by Michelle Paisley Reed, called Manifesting Miracles and for the first time I was actually able to meet my soul.  It was such an amazing experience.  My soul is just so happy.  I mead ridiculously happy.  Kind of reminded me of my puppy when she gets so excited.   I was surprised because there are times when I am feeling stressed, sad and feel rushed.  When I saw my soul was happy, it just made me feel happy and want to spend more time with my happy little soul.  I feel so blessed that I was able to have this experience.

I’ve meditated for years but I’ve never really been silent for days on end and I no longer fear silence.  I wonder what would happen if we would all take the time to just shut up for a couple of days.  And of course my ego wants to judge people and tell them, “You really need to shut up.”  But not only is that not nice, but that’s their choice and we all have choices now don’t we?

Valerie is a Health and Wellness Coach and Yoga Instructor.  She’s recuperating from a 26 year career in law enforcement.  After 9 months retired or repurposed she’s finally allowing herself a chance to truly rest.  She’s learning to listen to that voice inside of her and listening to what it wants.  You can read more about Valerie here.

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The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Originally published on TheCut.com on June 15, 2018 By Katie Heaney

The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is having a moment. The first thing you should know is that it’s an umbrella term for a variety of eating patterns that cycle between eating and … not. Silicon Valley is interested, and new companies shilling fast-aiding supplements, like HVMN (pronounced “human,” of course) have popped up as a result. A forum called WeFast, organized by HVMN, boasts thousands of intermittently fasting members, who meet in Facebook and Slack chats to share tips and, presumably, to complain about being hungry.

There are a lot of ways to do intermittent fasting, and a lot of self-proclaimed experts attempting to brand their specific formulations: there’s the 18/6 model (18 hours of fasting to a six-hour window in which you can eat normally), and the 16/8; there’s the 5/2 model espoused by Jimmy Kimmel, in which fasters eat normally for five days of the week and eat only 500 to 600 calories a day on the other two; and there’s alternate-day fasting, which is mostly what it sounds like: one day, you eat normally, and the next, you eat very little, or nothing. As to why anyone would do this, motives vary, from weight loss to better cognitive function to enhanced creativity.

As is the case with most trendy diets, there’s a lot of information online about intermittent fasting, and it’s not all good. Here you can find a solid, science-backed beginner’s guide to the practice, a few different ways to do it, and the health benefits supported by evidence thus far.

So what is intermittent fasting?

According to Dorothy Sears, the associate director of the Center for Circadian Biology at UCSD, intermittent fasting can mean a lot of things. The one thing all forms of intermittent fasting have in common is the cycling pattern between eating, and not eating. But, says Sears, even what is meant by “not eating” can vary — for some people it’s very literal, as in water only, and for some people it might mean only a certain, low number of calories. There are a variety of approaches to intermittent fasting, each with their own supporters and detractors.

Sears suggests a practical model called time-restricted eating. While some studies have shown promising results in participants who eat only during short time frames, like six hours a day, Sears fears such a small window wouldn’t be sustainable over the long term, and might make fasters more miserable than it’s worth. If, for instance, you experience work stress during a fasting period, you’re likely to be less able to handle it than you would be if you’d eaten recently.

“We have these fight-or-flight hormones, like epinephrine and norepinephrine, that get secreted when you have a stressful experience, and then you can get a very quick drop in the blood glucose, where you feel a little shaky. Some people call it hanger,” says Sears. “I think that happening a lot over a long period of time is probably not good for us.”

Instead, Sears suggests a 14/10 fasting-to-eating ratio — meaning you’d eat over a ten-hour period (say, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.), and fast the rest of the time, for example. That way you can still have a social life, and still function at work, while getting all the benefits time-restricted eating provides.

Does intermittent fasting work?

In short: all signs point to yes.

Dr. Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging, has been studying intermittent fasting for decades, predominantly in mice. In the late ’80s, says Mattson, there were a couple of studies that found that alternate-day fasting in mice extended their life spans by 30 percent. That finding made researchers wonder if there might be a connection between alternate-day fasting and brain function. So in studies published in the late ’90s and early aughts, Mattson tested this hypothesis, and found strong support for it. “Over two decades, essentially, we found that the intermittent fasting enhances the ability of nerve cells to cope with and resist stress, the kinds of stress that we think are leading to degeneration of nerve cells,” he says. The way this seems to work, says Mattson, is that intermittent fasting aids in the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which is known to be critical for learning and memory.

Now, an important caveat: Most, though not all, of the conclusive research done on intermittent fasting thus far has been on mice. Very few such studies exist for humans, and those that do often rely on very small sample groups. According to Sears, at the time of the review she published last year, there were only 17 studies done on intermittent fasting in humans, and most were very small. “Humans are just so different from one another that you really need to do studies on men and women, and you need to do people of different ages, and people of different disease states,” says Sears. “To do really rigorous testing of health benefits in populations you need to do large studies of lots of kinds of people.”

Part of the problem so far, Sears says, is that the NIH hasn’t funded many of the larger studies on the subject. But she hopes that will change. “When they are funded, and the studies are done, then I feel very strongly that we will start to see strong support of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.”

Mattson agrees that more support can only be forthcoming. He, along with Dr. Michelle Harvie, published a study that found that overweight women assigned to the 5/2 fasting diet lost more belly fat and had greater improvements in glucose regulation than their counterparts, who ate meals as usual but reduced their calorie intake by 20 percent. (Both groups lost equivalent amounts of weight.)

Will intermittent fasting help me lose weight?

Probably.

As with any other form of calorie restriction, evidence suggests that intermittent fasting will lead to weight loss — but again, there are some important caveats: most of the research on humans was done on those who were severely overweight or obese, and most measured weight loss over a period of a few months or less. To date, there aren’t any longitudinal studies on humans who fast intermittently, and we know that most people who lose weight eventually gain it back. This, suggests Sears, is all the more reason to pick a fasting model that you’re able to maintain.

Should I skip breakfast as part of my fast?

The verdict is still out.

While Mattson is in favor of the skipped breakfast (he claims he hasn’t eaten one in 35 years), there’s some reason to believe it really is the most important meal of the day, says Sears. “When you eat a meal, you have what’s called a thermogenic response, where your body produces a little bit of heat. You do that more readily in the morning than you do at night, so when you eat at night, you’re not liberating some of the fuels or energy that you’re eating as heat. You’re keeping all that energy in and storing it as fat,” she explains.

“We have a special hormone system in our bodies that helps us clear the sugar out of the blood, and that hormone is called insulin,” Sears says. “Insulin works really really well in the morning, and then it starts to not work so well in the afternoon, and it doesn’t work so well at night.” In other words, our bodies seem set up to process food more favorably in the morning than they are at night. “When we eat a large meal at breakfast, our bodies can handle it really well. So when it comes to intermittent-fasting regimens, I think the ones that are going to show the most promise moving forward are the ones where the food consumption is in the daytime.”

Is it okay to exercise while intermittently fasting?

Yes — in fact, it’s even better for you.

Most people work out when they can, so it might depend on where you can fit things in, but the ideal fasting and exercise setup might be to fast overnight — i.e., from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for a 12-hour fast, or 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. if you’re going for a 14-hour fast — and exercise first thing in the morning, before you eat, says Mattson. “When you’re sleeping you’re not using as much energy, so when you’re sleeping, the rate of depletion of your energy stores is slower than if you’re active,” he says. “So if you exercise in the morning, then you’re definitely going to start burning fat during the exercise. This is one thing we’ve been studying in animals, and there’s some indirect evidence in humans, that exercising while in the fasted state may amplify or enhance the beneficial effects of exercise on health.”

What am I allowed to eat or drink while I’m fasting?

Again, that depends on your fasting model.

Importantly, both Mattson and Sears say that their research suggests that animals and humans benefit from intermittent fasting even when it’s only done most of the time — whether that means doing the 5/2 model, or only doing time restricted eating during the week. “We think you don’t have to have a perfect adherence to the regimen, you just need to practice it for the most part. Five out of seven days is probably enough to see a long-term benefit,” says Sears.

So, while you’re fasting, you can have water, but you can also chew gum, or have coffee, if you want — maybe even a Diet Coke, says Sears (though she wouldn’t encourage it, either). In a study she’s currently piloting, Sears says she told subjects, “When you’re waiting for your fast to end, and you have one more hour to go, and you want your coffee, have it, but just don’t put anything in it that has calories. So if a woman wanted to have a black coffee with an artificial sweetener, she could do that.” You don’t have to be a true ascetic to make intermittent fasting work for you.